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Home > Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Debate. Business growth and job creation in town and village centres: discussion.

[Oireachtas] Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Debate. Business growth and job creation in town and village centres: discussion. (17 Jun 2014)

URL: http://oireachtasdebates.oireachtas.ie/Debates%20A...


Chairman: Everyone is welcome. We will discuss the policy options to support business growth and job creation and retention in town and village centres. I welcome Mr. Stephen Lynam, director of Retail Ireland, Mr. Stephen Sealey, managing director of Brown Thomas, and Mr. Bob Parker, director of operations at Clerys…  

Mr. Stephen Lynam: I thank the committee for the invitation. I offer apologies on behalf of Ms Kavanagh from Arnotts, as she got called away at the last minute.

Retail Ireland is the representative body for the entire retail sector. It numbers 3,000 shops, including department stores, DIY shops, electrical retailers, fashion and footwear retailers, supermarket groups, symbol groups and specialist retailers. We are a division of IBEC. Through that connection, we have close links with the Small Firms Association, which represents a number of small and independent retailers. Some of our members operate in out-of-town stores and town and city centres. Many operate in both.

These meetings are timely, as the recently established retail consultation forum, of which we are supportive, is due to discuss this matter. I hope that progress can be made between these hearings and that forum….

Policy formulation in this area falls into four broad themes from which individual policy recommendations may flow: measures focused on making city and town centres better places to visit; measures to make town centres more attractive to consumers; measures to tackle crime and improve safety; and measures to improve business conditions for retailers. If these four areas can be properly addressed in a timely fashion, major strides will be made. Mr. Sealey and Mr. Parker will discuss their experiences as practising retailers in a few minutes, but I will go through some of our policy suggestions.

Regarding measures focused on making city and town centres better places to visit, we have a number of proposals. As recommended in the British report "High Streets at the Heart of our Communities: The Government's response to the Mary Portas Review", the Irish Government should identify pilot towns and cities where new partnerships involving retailers, landlords, local authorities, representative groups and so on could be formed to establish targets and achieve demonstrable improvements in town centre locations. Building on the success of the Dublin business improvement district, BID, other towns and cities should establish, where demand among retailers and other businesses is present, their own BIDs to drive footfall. I advise the committee to hear from the Dublin BID as part of this process. That group can share its experience of Dublin city centre and describe how the BID system can be carried into other cities and towns.

Planning presents an issue. Specific measures should be taken in the planning process to make town and city centres attractive places to shop. By necessity, this may involve a change in the location of certain services, such as drug treatment clinics and homeless facilities. The importance of the provision of these services is not in doubt. Instead of being centrally located, however, they should be located closer to where those who are in receipt of them live. This will ensure a greater geographical spread of such services and allow for towns and cities to once again become vibrant centres of commerce……

[For the full debate, click on the link above]

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